Originally published in the News-Graphic in 2004. 

 

They will never get the chewing gum out of the school. 

When I was a student at Old Garth High School, the biggest issue we faced was chewing gum in class. One thing for certain as a student was you didn’t want to get caught creating this gross violation of school rules. But we took our chances anyway.

That was 50 years ago, but I still remember the wrath of Mrs. Craycraft if she happened to slip up behind you as you were chewing away. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Mr. Moore had a softer approach. He would go to the chalk board and in very large words he would write, “chewing gum.” Then an embarrassed student would slip quietly up to the trash can and throw the gum away. There were a few that would simply swallow the gum and then swear they were chewing their tongue. Mr. Moore always said it wasn’t the chewing gum that bothered him, it was the chewing of gum. You figure that out.

Miss Thomas had her own way of dealing with this major problem. She simply came by your desk with the trash can and held it there until the gum was gone. Then she would let you know you had to stay an extra 30 minutes after school.

I always wondered why the Hamilton sisters, Miss Cora Sue and Miss Katherine, never did catch any of us chewing gum. I can’t remember them ever calling anyone down about this, and it was one of the strictest rules in school — or maybe they knew something the others didn’t know. “You will never get the chewing gum out of the school.”

A lot has changed since those days when chewing gum was the big issue of the day. Let me share a few examples as they relate to a more complex world and how our attitude about something so simple might also apply to more serious issues. 

I talked with someone this past week who was a member of an active group. For the past year they had debated a problem they felt was important, but instead of getting better it got worse. It was only a problem to a couple of the members, but it dominated every meeting until finally one member decided it was time to move on. It was either that or just quit meeting. Her take on the matter was just that sometimes problems don’t get solved.

I have written a lot of columns about depression and talked with a multitude of people who struggle with this dreaded disease. All too often they battle with a perceived problem they can’t seem to put behind them. And all too often these problems destroy their enjoyment of life. Numerous times I have heard the words: “If I could just get this behind me…” And unless they can put this problem behind them, they never get well.

I have seen churches split over minor issues that never get solved while their major mission slowly fades away. Marriages have been destroyed as one mate refuses to just give in. Governments have been brought to standstill as one party will not compromise for the good of all. 

As I have grown older, and I hope wiser, I have learned some very important lessons. I have learned my problems aren’t always someone else’s problem. I have learned sometimes problems just don’t get solved. I have learned that sometimes to get along I need to go along. 

And finally as I reflect back on my school days at Garth High, I have learned the Hamilton sisters were right: They will never get the chewing gum out of the schools.

 

George Lusby is the former Scott County judge-executive. “The Best of Crawfish and Minnows,” is available at the News-Graphic office.

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